The desert Southwest is a broad, vast area that includes some of the most striking terrain and geography anywhere. On a clear day from the proper vantage point, you can see a hundred miles or more which is a considerable distance you think about it. And you can see the weather change right before your eyes, as in the case of Needles Strike.
This day had dawned bright and calm, with no forewarning of what was coming. Looking out across the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah, all was peaceful down below. The rugged landscape looked tame, but the reality was quite different. Few roads dare to carve their way through here, and there are few reasons even to attempt it. The land is left to itself.
At first, a few wispy clouds breached the far horizon, followed by more. Off in the far distance, an isolated storm cell drifted into view and began to take direct aim at Canyonlands. The closer it came, the more intense it became. Low rumbles of thunder became booming, deafening, roars, and the cell began to unleash torrential rains onto the parched earth below. Along with the storm came the lightning, and with the flash came Needles Strike. Soon enough, the cell passed by, and all was calm again, until the next storm.
Safety is of the utmost importance when photographing lightning, especially in the desert. Lightning can strike far from the clouds you might expect it to be underneath. Often, these strikes are miles away from the storm you are watching. They come without warning and can appear suddenly. Standing on top of a land feature, such as a mesa or a bluff increases your chance of being struck. When photographing lightning be sure to think of your personal safety before anything else.